In memory of Jobriath and what could have been
August 4th, 2018 marks the 35th anniversary of the death of Jobriath Boone (born, Bruce Wayne Campbell). Once considered to be the American David Bowie with his own Ziggy Stardust look. Elektra records signed him to a recording contract in 1973. The reported $500,000 deal was the most lucrative to date.
Although the target of a massive ad campaign by Svengaliesque impresario Jerry Brandt. Brandt got Jobriath on the cover of Penthouse, Vogue, and Rolling Stone magazines. He also had Jobriath’s naked torso pasted on New York transit buses and a giant billboard in Times Square. All the hype was before he even released a record.
His voice at time reminds the critics of Mick Jagger or David Johanssen of the New York Dolls. He was a masterful piano player whose songs vary from glam rock to piano-driven show tunes. In Melody Maker, Brandt explains, “Jobriath is going to be the biggest artist in the world. He is a singer, dancer, woman, man. (Jobriath) Has the glamour of Garbo. He is beautiful,”
Despite Brandts’s confidence, Jobriath’s self-titled first record was a flop. The failure is mostly blamed on Jobriath being the first openly gay performer. His appearance on The Midnight Special shock an uptight America with his obvious feminity. America was not ready for an openly gay glitter-dipped pop star wearing a space suit made of dryer hose like material. He made brash statements like “I’m the true fairy of rock ’n’ roll” and “Asking me if I’m homosexual is like asking James Brown if he’s black.” In sensational interviews, he declared other effeminate rockers as “pretenders.”  This brashness did not help him gain popularity.
Jobrath’s life and career were tragic. He quickly burnt out his star. After the failure of his first album, the release of his second was rushed to print without promotion. It was his last and also a failure. He then changed his persona from Jobriath to a cabaret singer named Cole Berlin. He played in small clubs and prostituted himself to supplement his income. He never found stardom; his talent wasted. Sadly, he died in 1983 at the age of 37. He is the first internationally known performer to die of aids in 1983, dying alone in the infamous Chelsea Hotel.
You may ask why do we remember an unsuccessful glam rock performer? Well, he was brave enough not to hide or hint his sexuality. He is the first openly gay performer to sign to a major label. He influenced such artists as Morrissey and the Scissor Sisters. Tragically, Morrissey tried to restart his career by asking him to open for him, not knowing he had passed. Jobriath took a giant leap without a net. Although he failed, sometimes you have to celebrate the attempt.
 Def Leppard’s Joe Elliott remembers tragic gay glam-rocker Jobriath: Like ‘Ziggy Stardust sung by Mick Jagger,’ Lyndsey Parker, August 4, 2018, Yahoo